Base Line Street

Image of Colonel Henry Washington's Survey Monument
Colonel Henry Washington's Survey Monument

The Fall of 1852 brought an important development to the newly formed Mormon settlement in San Bernardino. Colonel Henry Washington, a United States Deputy Surveyor, erected a monument on the top of Mount San Bernardino, east and a little north of the fort, and upon this base line surveys in the entire southern part of the state were, and still are, based. This is the extension of this survey line - the street now known as Base Line.

In 1949, San Bernardino celebrated "Covered Wagon Days." Colonel Washington's bonfire was recreated, with the help of magnesium flares, the U. S. Army, the U.S. Forestry Service, the San Bernardino Argonaut Club, film star and Highland resident Edward Arnold, network radio coverage via KFXM. Despite fog, which moved in, a tremendous explosion was visible in San Bernardino when the flares misfired. Fortunately, no one was hurt.2

The monument erected by Washington was clearly visible from the valley, and the colonists derived a distinct thrill from seeing it. The colony had an official clerk, who recorded events daily. His record for November 7, 1852 reads: "In the evening, a little after dark, Colonel Washington's fires were seen burning on the top of Mount San Bernardino." On November 8, "Colonel Washington's flag could be seen through spyglasses, waving on the top of Mount San Bernardino."1

Of eleven bearings taken to define the location of this monument, pictured at right, nine were to natural landmarks, and two to buildings: the Mormon Fort, apparent distance 23.5 miles, and Old Mission Building, 20 miles. Records show that the surveyors found it difficult to obtain true fixes on triangulation marks because of the shimmering heat waves of the Valley. To overcome this difficulty, huge fires were built atop the peaks that surround the Valley, including 10,630-foot Mt. San Bernardino, and the surveys were made at night.

Image of 1949 "Bonfire"
1949 "Bonfire"

1 Beattie, op. cit., p. 205.
2 Verbal Testimony, C. Lowell Smith, Chairman, 1949 Base Line Ceremony.

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